It’s often said that desperate times call for desperate measures. But should launching a successful cooperation with a software development company remotely be considered as a “desperate measure”? Undoubtedly not – many steps of the process are always done online so most of it might be described as “business as usual”, and the parts that in most cases are covered during face to face meetings can be in switched to remote manner without any efficiency loss.
Since nowadays the difficult conditions that we all find ourselves in changed the world in a way that no one had seen before, we decide to provide you with something between a checklist and a brief guideline that should resolve any doubts regarding whether remotely discussing the terms, signing the deal and moving on with the work with an outsourcing company can be done without any half-measures.
Setting the scope and rules of cooperation
Once you choose a vendor that fits your project needs and before you sign the agreement it’s time to discuss all the details of the following cooperation. The first meetings, on the one hand, are for you to learn as much as possible about the potential partner’s company. What’s essential are the specialty, resources, technology and culture match. On the other hand, it’s also the time when a potential provider should learn a lot about your company and the work to be done. Project requirements, key people involved, and cooperation timeline is only the essence of what you should share with the external company. It’s best to involve all the stakeholders and decision makers for this part since their point of view is what the project assumptions are made of. This applies to the vendor as well – through these you should meet not only people accountable for business development but also delivery managers who would be responsible for your project. Don’t ever be afraid to ask a lot of questions but also be open to answering the ones from outsourcing company representatives. The mutual understating is a key factor of success in the whole process, and during settlement, it’s no different. Remember to pay attention if the potential vendor is responsive and prepared for the meetings – that reflects the company approach and gives you a glimpse of how future cooperation would look like.
When it comes to the technical aspect of doing it remotely – there not much to expatiate upon 😉 Choose the online video communication tool that you or your partner are familiar with and just treat it like normal face to face meetings. As for one detail remember to keep the camera on – that truly makes the difference. We highly dissuade using your phone for it – firstly it makes it more laborious to see each other but most importantly the quality is often poor when the call is international.
Signing the deal
Once you established all the agreement details comes the time to finalize it and sign the contract. That’s the part which often calls to question when conduct remotely, but fortunately, with the use of modern online tools, it’s completely safe. Let’s go one step back though, since before the deal is signed, you need to prepare the paperwork in a way that works for you and your vendor. Our experience shows that this is always done remotely, so there’s no difference – the paperwork must go through legal verification and it’s done through emails. There are many tools that allow to share files between everyone involved and add comments/changes till you end with a version that suits you and the vendor.
When the document gets to the final form comes the part which might seem tricky. The moment when the prepared agreement has to be accepted by the legal department finally and then sign by decision makers. For this, we use and recommend DocuSign – software that allows us to run every step of the process online maintaining the highest security standards. It gives the possibility to prepare a “document journey” where you can set who should approve the final form (almost always it’s the legal department) and then sign the contract.
Establishing ways of working and running initial workshops
After the agreement is signed it’s time to dive into every little detail of the work ahead and establish the first iteration of the “ways of working” that would cover precisely the day-by-day cooperation model. Usually, this involves the representatives of both companies who meet in one location to discuss all these matters. However, even before the current situation that forced everyone to work remotely, we had a chance to organize and then run these entirely online. Hence most outsourcing companies work every day with partners that are thousands of miles away, their employees are experienced in maintaining the effectiveness during online cooperation and meetings. We are always ready to share our expertise to prepare for such online workshops so these could run smoothly and our managers are well prepared to facilitate them so achieving the set goal would not be interrupted.
How exactly these workshops should look is another story that deserves its own text, and we will cover it in the following articles. For this post let’s focus on the outcome which is an in-depth understanding of business goals and technical aspects of the project as well as obtaining access to the most important systems. The best way to achieve that is to treat members of the outsourced team as new employees in your company – you can even use some of the onboarding materials. That would allow to start the collaboration without any uncertainties or misunderstanding and have established rules of cooperation that suit both sides.
Building relationship and trust
Although we all would probably agree that once the coronavirus pandemic would end, real-life meetings are going to come back, building relationships and trust can be handled online. Keeping the camera on was already mentioned but due to its importance we sure that emphasizing it again makes sense – that’s the best way of replacing face to face meetings and tightening the bond between participants. Even if something unexpected appears in the background that’s never a problem – we all know that while working from home your family might need your attention 😉 What’s more, you shouldn’t stick to business conversations only. Treat these talks like a regular onsite meeting. As while visiting your potential partner, you share a meal in between or after a full day of negotiations during the online meeting you should also have some time for a casual talk.
Bonding has a huge impact on the success – we strongly believe that it is not client-vendor relation but a partnership that allows to make the utmost of software development outsourcing. That applies not only for the executives but team members also. It’s frequent to have some concerns about the internal team and external developers integration but all you have to do is provide a space where they can meet and as a result find the common language. In a scenario where developers can’t gather in person that should be replaced with regular casual chats online. That could include for example “virtual office kitchen” organized in a tool like houseparty or having an online beer after hours.
When it comes to trust, we’re aware that building it might be more demanding online. Everything we stated above helps, but it takes time. At first, you might even need to give your potential partner some benefit of the doubt. What might be a good starting point is, apart from all those talks ;), checking verified online opinions like the one you can find on Clutch or asking for contact with one of your vendor‘s former and actual clients. Reaching out to them and asking questions that are in your head is an excellent way of doing a background check and a trustworthy provider would never have any problems with it since they shouldn’t have anything to hide.
Cooperation is a two-way street. Like we stated million times already engagement is a key to success when it comes to outsourcing. Obviously, during the first handshakes (metaphorical handshakes, we’re up to date with WHO recommendations, and always ready to wave to you in front of the camera instead 😉 ) the vendor has to present his specialty and capabilities, but your input is as important. Each step needs a different level of detail (first negotiations can cover the project only generally, but during the workshops, you should dive into the deepest details with the development team) and without your input, the chances of success radically drop. Even though it might seem like a huge effort – it’s not, just instead of only asking questions keep your head open to replying the ones asked by vendor representatives, be available when further ones would appear and keep the hand on the pulse. It’s the common goal that you and your potential partner are heading to, so you need to play in one team to eventually mark the project as a success.
Take your time
Software development outsourcing is a complex process with many dependants, and you have to be aware that the project won’t start in a matter of single days. Although the process of preparing the agreements and establishing conditions of cooperation can be done rapidly, then comes the time for recruitment and team building. Outsourcing companies usually have some specialists available “on the go,” but the bigger team is needed, the longer it would take to assemble. What’s important, you should never rush this process – after all, you want to work with top-notch experts, and recruiting them simply takes time. Consider this time as an investment because it would undoubtfully pay back in the future when the work begins. What’s more, be careful when someone offers you any number of specialists at any time – that’s the moment when the red light should start blinking cause it’s clearly a promise of pie in the sky?
As you can see moving the whole process of launching the cooperation from the initial contact to the time when development starts is not as difficult and risky as it might seem. Only a few aspects differ from the “usual” way, and these do not put anything in danger. It might demand slightly more engagement from both sides but on the other hand, it allows you to save money and time that you would normally spend on traveling and most importantly during what’s happening around the world now – keeps everyone protected. Obviously, once it would be safe to travel and meet again, we invite you all to our headquarter in Krakow – convenience and effectiveness is one thing but meeting in person is another ? For now if you have any further questions regarding this or other software development outsourcing aspects use the contact form below – we’re always eager to share our experience and more than ready to establish new valuable relations without having to leave the safe space of our homes.
About the authorSoftware Mind
Software Mind provides companies with autonomous development teams who manage software life cycles from ideation to release and beyond. For over 20 years we’ve been enriching organizations with the talent they need to boost scalability, drive dynamic growth and bring disruptive ideas to life. Our top-notch engineering teams combine ownership with leading technologies, including cloud, AI, data science and embedded software to accelerate digital transformations and boost software delivery. A culture that embraces openness, craves more and acts with respect enables our bold and passionate people to create evolutive solutions that support scale-ups, unicorns and enterprise-level companies around the world.